Winter Safety Tips

Written by: Dr. Jessica Papa, PT, DPT


Hello, patients and friends of Arancia Physical Therapy! In this week’s blog, we will be sharing some common winter safety tips to prevent injuries and help keep you safe & healthy this winter. Whether you’re shoveling, skating, skiing, snowboarding, or doing any other activity, it’s important to take precautions to avoid injury.

Although winter activities can be really fun and a great way to remain active during the cold months, they lead to high rates of injury during the season! According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 440,00 people were treated at hospitals, doctor’s offices, and emergency rooms for winter sports-related injuries in 2010.

Some alarming statistics are:

  • 144,000 injuries from snow skiing
  • 148,000 injuries from snowboarding
  • 58,500 injuries from ice skating
  • 91,000 injuries from sledding and tobogganing

Some common injuries include sprains, strains, dislocations, and fractures. It’s common for these injuries to occur at the end of the day when people overexert themselves. Many of these injuries are preventable and participants should be sure to prepare their bodies. This can be done by keeping in good physical condition, never participating alone, warming up to avoid cold muscles and tendons sustainable to injury, wearing appropriate protective gear and clothing, and drinking plenty of water before, during, and after any activities. 

More than 440,00 people were treated at hospitals, doctor’s offices, and emergency rooms for winter sports-related injuries in 2010.

Common Winter Sports Injuries & Tips to Avoid Them

Knee and Ankle Injuries: 

Downhill skiing and snowboarding put you at a substantial risk of injury to your knees and ankles. An ankle sprain can be more painful and take longer to heal than an ankle fracture. The most common ankle injury is an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear. Tears or ruptures of the ACL or Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) of the knee are some of the most debilitating injuries and often require surgery. To help protect yourself from these injuries, have your board bindings inspected frequently and be sure that your footwear is sized properly. 

Hand and Wrist Injuries: 

It is very easy to break your wrist or fingers when skiing or skating. The straps of the ski pole could lead to an injury to your wrist or a tear to the ligaments of your thumb. A common injury called “skier’s thumb” occurs when you fall awkwardly onto your hands while holding a ski pole. This results in a UCL tear which is a ligament on the inside of the thumb. You can prevent this by making sure your ski straps stay below your wrist. 

Lower Back Injuries: 

Cold weather constricts muscles and diminishes flexibility. Back pain can occur as a result of failing to warm up properly and overworking your body. A more serious back injury can occur as a result of a fall that causes damage to vertebrae or compresses the discs in your back. To prevent this, keep your back and abdominal muscles strong before you start your winter activities to give you the muscular endurance you need.

Snow Shovel

Shoveling Injuries

Perhaps surprisingly, shoveling results in a very high number of injuries! This is due to improper form while clearing snow. There are many ways in which you can remain injury free while clearing your sidewalk or driveway.

As always, it’s important to warm-up before performing a strenuous physical activity. This is especially important before going out into the cold. This can consist of a five to ten minute warm up which can include walking briskly, running in place, or stretching to increase the blood flow to your muscles and prepare them. These preparations are important because warm muscles are able to adapt to unexpected movements much more quickly than cold muscles. Another important precaution is wearing proper footwear with an adequate tread to prevent dangerous slips and falls on icy surfaces this time of year. 

Improper form while shoveling leads to injuries and strains of inadequately conditioned muscles between the shoulders, upper back, low back, buttocks and upper legs. Proper form involves squatting with your legs apart, knees bent, and back straight. Always remember to maintain good posture and to consider the natural curve of your spine as you shovel snow. For this reason, you should keep the shovel close to your body and lift with your legs. It’s also important to avoid twisting and turning movements while shoveling snow in order to prevent back injuries. 

Choosing the proper shovel is also important. An ergonomic snow shovel that weighs less than 3 pounds, can take some of the effort out of snow removal.  A shovel with a curved handle or an adjustable handle length will minimize painful bending. An ergonomically correct shovel should be used to push the snow rather than lift it. Ideally, you will keep your hands about 12 inches apart when gripping the shovel to provide greater stability and minimize the chances of injuring your low back. Lastly, it’s important to pace yourself, take frequent breaks, and stay hydrated. 


 Self-Treatment is also very important in the prevention and healing of winter activity related injuries.

A recommended tool for this is the Sacro Wedge, which can be found here: 

 The Sacro Wedge is a tool that is used to release through the low back, sacrum, pelvis, and hips. It can be helpful in relieving low back pain and sciatica. Due to the difference in size and shape of the male and female pelvis, there are two versions of this tool. The pink tool is shorter and wider and is suited for women. The blue-colored tool is longer and narrower and is used by men, and occasionally by taller women. 

Instructions for Use: 

Place the Sacro Wedge as shown in the picture on the left.

Be sure the narrow end of the Sacro Wedge is not pressing on your tailbone.

Then roll onto your back. Knees can be straight and supported by a pillow, bent, or pulled up toward the chest.

Support your neck with a rolled towel.

Relax through your back and hips. Try to soften any areas of tightness and discomfort.

Rest on the Sacro Wedge for 20 minutes. Be sure to come off the tool very slowly. It is sometimes helpful to gently move your low back and legs prior to getting up, as there can be some initial soreness when you first start using the tool. 

Avoid Winter Injuries

Working with Arancia Physical Therapy can help you avoid a winter injury.

Contact us to set up an appointment and start your winter season on the right path!

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